Fire Furphies


Contrary to the constant blathering of “greenies don’t fight fires”, myself and many other conservationists were also out there getting soot stained and coming home exhausted from the front line. In fact at the Tubbut fire, of the 12 crew in three trucks one night, at least five of us were “greenies”. We just don’t wear signs on our overalls saying ” I AM A GREENIE “.


No conservation group has EVER campaigned against prescribed burns. There are certainly problems with the way they are broadcast over the landscape without thought, but there has never been any campaign to stop burning. This is another baseless claim that has been repeated so many times that people and even responsible journos swallow and regurgitate it.


Contrary to claims, most fires start outside parks and move in. Parks have little to do with the spread of fires. It is extreme weather conditions and drought that caused these fires, not greenies, not parks, not lack of burns. The combination of a drought year, hot weather and winds was the cause. If the spouters of this nonsense believe parks are to blame, then they must believe that the parks also stop fires. Since the fire front hit the Western edge of the Snowy Park, it hardly moved. Now was that due to an untouched forest environment or to weather conditions? Possibly both.

Those we hear making these claims usually have a commercial vested interest – cattlemen and graziers or the logging industry. More than once we’ve heard that National Parks must be cleaned out, logged from time to time and have cows eat down all the flammables.

What happens when cows enter a natural alpine area is they favour the succulent native grasses. With less grass competition, the low shrubs and more flammable vegetation is encouraged – which the cattle don’t like. Maisie Fawcett’s plots from the 40s have shown that given enough bovine free time, the grasses start to dominate again and the fire threat is lessened.

Clearfell regrowth is of course thick, uniform and oily; a tinder box waiting for a match. Untouched forests are generally multi aged, multi-storied, mega diverse with a moist, enclosed micro-climate underneath that keep ferns and mosses thriving in the hottest driest weather. These are fire retarding in themselves. They don’t need burning, even with a “cool” burn. In fact regular burns can change the make-up of a forest dramatically into a drier more open and scrubby type. Plants that are fire sensitive die out and are replaced by fire tolerant understorey plants that catch fire well.

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